Legal action over taxi driver abuse

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The father of an autistic boy assaulted by his school taxi driver has announced his intention to sue for damages.

The boy, who was 13 at the time, was assaulted twice by the Leyland-based driver who took him to his special school.

The driver surrendered his licence after being convicted by magistrates. But he had it renewed weeks later by South Ribble’s general licensing committee.

Now the boy’s father has appointed abuse lawyer Richard Scorer in a civil claim for damages relating to trauma to his son. Although in early stages, it is believed the lawyer is investigating which authority to pursue - South Ribble Council or Lancashire County Council - which contracted the driver.

The dad said: “My son’s life has been ruined. We’re suing for damages for the abuse and for not having access to him.

“His behaviour deteriorated to the point where he had to go into care because we couldn’t deal with his behaviour. I now have to drive twice a week to see him and he can only stay with us for one night a week.”

Mr Scorer said: “We urgently need clear national standards for driver licensing and an effective vetting system that ensures nobody who poses a risk to the public can get a taxi license.”

Neither council deemed it appropriate to comment on the legal action, but an LCC spokesman said action was quickly taken to ensure the driver involved did not work for the county council again.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “The safety of passengers using the transport that we commission is of paramount importance.

“One of our passenger assistants reported this issue when it happened, four years ago, and action was taken quickly to ensure that the driver involved did not work for the county council again. All procedures were followed promptly and appropriately.”

An investigation last year into South Ribble’s licensing department revealed a catalouge of failings – including drivers being given licenses without correct documentation and reports of child sexual exploitation by two taxi drivers.

The council has since overhauled its service and brought in a taxi licensing policy.

Councillor Peter Mullineaux, leader of South Ribble Borough Council, said: “The council has faced a difficult 18 months where the effectiveness of our licensing service has been called into question. We have always acted swiftly to address any issues and our licensing service has recently been praised as ‘a model of good practice’ by an external assessor and found to be among the best in the country for protecting public safety.”

The council declined to comment on reports two licensing officers suspended for 12 months while investigations were carried out are still absent from work, but Coun Mullineaux added: “People can rest assured that we have always fully investigated any claims made about the conduct of our officers.”